And cold, I suppose, now that winter has set in. They don’t like walking in snow, but they seem pretty happy. No signs of frost bit yet, either. Very gentle, curious birds. Roger, the young Rhode Island Red rooster, and the 3 Barred Plymouth Rock hens, are especially friendly, approaching closely and expectantly when I’m around, eager for a treat or simply showing that they know the hand that feeds them. They will all readily eat of my hand. Watching them, feeding them, and just hanging out with them, makes me happy. And, man, do they love meal worms! They recognize the bag and scarf them up like crazy when I toss them around the pen or coop.
I chose dual purpose, cold hardy, heritage breeds for a reason and I’m glad I did. So far, they don’t need to be babied. They just need fresh warm water at least twice a day and prefer fresh feed, scratch grains and meal worms tossed around the ground. They have hanging feeders filled with standard poultry feed and a waterer inside the coop, but they prefer to drink water from flat bowls and would rather dine on whatever is tossed on the ground, so long as they don’t have to walk in too much snow.
I only named 1 chicken — Roger, the young rooster (cockerel) who has yet to crow — because I couldn’t tell any of the pullets or young hens apart. My sweet, quirky, imaginative, 11-year-old daughter Ally named the Barred Rock hens Gary. Ha! They look identical, but there is a difference in their behavior and personalities. There’s #1 “What’s Up! Don’t Fence Me In” adventurous leader Gary. She’s the first to approach me closely, look at me expectantly, eat out of my hand, follow me around, fly out of the pen and wander freely around (before there was 10-12″ of snow on the ground). Gary #2 is the “Looks Good to Me, I’ll Follow Her” hen and Gary #3 is the “Wait! I’m With Both of You, Don’t Leave Me Behind, Give Me Some Time”” gal.
Only the Garys are old enough to lay eggs so far. Even in winter, I collect 2, sometimes 3, eggs/day.
Their eggs are tastier, more vibrantly flavorful than any store bought eggs I’ve ever had.
Then there’s the 3 Rhode Island Red pullets. They’re about 18 weeks old now, have yet to lay eggs (as far I know). I’m calling them Rita. They tend to hang together, too, like the Barred Rocks and are growing by the day. Calm, curious, apparently happy.
And 3 Australorp pullets, black feathers and feet, also about 18 weeks old. The 3 Annies. They tend to hang together, too, are a little shier and a little smaller than the others. One of them was the last to climb up on the roosts in the coop at night. She would huddle in a corner at night for a couple of weeks, but now goes up to one of the 2×4 roosting bars, huddled close to her Australorp sisters at night.
Last, but not least, is Roger, the one and only rooster, a Rhode Island Red cockerel about 18 weeks old. He’s the closest one to being a pet, doesn’t care to be pet or held or picked up, but, along with Gary #1, will follow me around like a little dog. He has yet to crow, has grown the most in the few weeks I’ve had the chickens, and is sprouting pretty greenish tail feathers.
All of them mix well and get along very well, though they tend to hang with their own kind. And no fighting that I’ve seen, though there is a bit of a pecking order, with the 3 larger Garys at the top and the shiest Annie at the bottom.
Roger has begun to get a little randy with the Ritas and the Annies now and then, but he seems to know better than to get too forward with the Garys. The older, larger, more seasoned ladies will have none of that. Thus far.